Alex McLeish claims Scotland’s tumultuous and nervy 3-2 Nations League win over Israel at Hampden Park which secured a place in the play-off for the 2020 European Championships felt perfect to him.
On a night of high drama, Celtic winger James Forrest notched a stunning hat-trick after former Hoops midfielder Beram Kayal opened the scoring with the Scots surviving a late goal from midfielder Eran Zahavi with only a great save from keeper Allan McGregor denying the visitors an equaliser.
It was a game Scotland needed to win to finish top of Group C1 and they will be promoted to Group B with the play-off in 2020 likely to be against Finland
Asked to accept that the performance had not been perfect, McLeish said: “It feels perfect to me. The goal was to win and we did that.
“So, we will look at the video and look to improve things but again the lads played to a very high level of quality as well as intensity.”
McLeish had come in for criticism following the 2-1 defeat by Israel in Haifa last month but a much-changed Scotland side, due to call-offs, beat Albania 4-0 in Shkoder on Saturday night to set up the crucial final Group C1 fixture with Andreas Herzog’s side in Glasgow.
Former Scotland defender McLeish said: “Tonight, actually, I was quite calm. I felt really strong about this team and going into the game and the way they played to a high intensity against Albania, where we obviously got a wee bit of help with the sending off and we really played that extremely professionally.
“To keep that high intensity tonight was a wee bit of a task because of the same team playing and Israel had a couple of days rest more than us.
“That was a factor in terms of the tiredness but I have got to say I am so proud of the guys, we answered a lot of questions. There is more to come. There is evidence over the last two games. We showed Israel how we can really play. It has given us a massive feeling of power and self-satisfaction.
“We were written off and we came through adversity and that is an amazing part of your character if you can do that.”
McLeish lavished praise on Forrest who had scored his first two Scotland goals in Albania, with a special word for McGregor who denied Israel substitute Tomer Hemed.
He said: “James’ goals over the weekend and tonight were amazing.
“It was great to see him scoring on his 25th cap (Albania) and then to get a hat-trick tonight. His finishing tonight was unerring. It was brilliant finishing.
“He is in phenomenal form and then Greegsy (McGregor), the save, it was a world-class save and he has done that the whole season.”
Herzog said: “We were expecting a better performance, Scotland were the better team in the middle of the game.
“We weren’t able to defend the three situations and Scotland showed their quality.
“Everyone is disappointed and congratulations to Scotland.”
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